27 Life Lessons at 27

I turned 27 on Monday, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

JJ Wong
JJ Wong
Feb 25 · 10 min read
That’s me!

Let’s jump right into it.

1. You’ll never figure “life” out.

As a kid, I always dreamed that one day, I’d “get it”. When I was finally a legitimate adult, I’d understand life. Surely the answers existed somewhere!

Someone must know the objectively best way to live life.

Nope.

Every day, I stray further from God. I tried learning about Ethics and Philosophy in university for 4 years to figure it out. I read hundreds of books over the last 27 years in vain.

No answers. Just more questions.

And that’s ok.

2. Gratitude is the key.

The easiest way to have a good day is to start off being thankful. You can be thankful for anything, it doesn’t matter. Thankful for that perfect warm nest-feeling when you’re snuggled just right in your blanket… Thankful for a hot cup of coffee. Thankful for a nice bowel movement after breakfast.

It’s all good.

Not always easy though. When the days are bad, being thankful is the last thing on my mind. And yet, whenever I practice gratitude, I always regain perspective. Gratitude shocks the “complaining” part of me — it’s a reminder that no matter how bad things get, I’ve still got the power to control my own thoughts.

Practice gratitude on the good days so that it becomes an automated habit on the bad days.

You’ll thank yourself after.

3. Happiness fluctuates. That’s ok.

Happiness is a feeling. It comes and goes. You can’t be happy all the time.

It’ll kill you.

Don’t chase happiness. Remember that happiness is a byproduct of happy-inducing actions and behaviours. Do things that lead to happiness.

Some of them will be instant gratification. Dance is a good example.

Some of them are slow-burners. Running isn’t fun at the moment, but you’ll feel great again after lunch.

4. There is no “right” way to live, so lean into your weirdness.

As the 8th grader locker posters all say, “be you, everybody else is already taken.”

They’re right (yuck). You can’t live life the right way because it doesn’t exist (see lesson #1). So your only competitive advantage in this world is being yourself. If you don’t know who you are, then that’s your first mission.

Figure out who you are.

If you can’t do that, then go onto mission two.

Create who you are.

Try it out. Remember, you can always change. You wanted to be a psychologist, an economist, a dance teacher, a writer, a musician, a travelling blogger/vlogger character…You’ve been wrong before. You’ll be wrong again.

That’s the fun part.

5. The IKEA Principle… is correct. (RE: Travel)

When I was little, I came up with the IKEA Principle (please don’t confuse this with the IKEA Effect). It’s simple. As a kid, I always wanted to go to IKEA to eat their Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce.

But when I got to IKEA, all I wanted to do was go home and play computer.

Travelling is the same. When you’re at work, you dream of boarding the airplane and jetting off to new adventures. It’s all so romantic and sexy. Dance. Food. Newness.

But when you’re there, it’s sleepless flights. Constant stress. Waiting in lines. Being baked by the sun. Getting tired after walking 40,000 steps, the stinky feet and vomit in the hostel sink…All you want to do is go home and lie in your own bed.

We want what we cannot have.

Remember Emerson: You cannot escape yourself.

“ At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

6. Buy the plane ticket.

You’ve got 20 tabs open, checking dates and prices on Google Flights for the 1000000th time. It’s been two weeks of arguing with yourself.

Just buy it. I know what I said about wanting what you can’t have. Who cares? Life is short.

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”

— Soren Kierkegaard

So just go. you’ll regret it anyway, do the one that’s more fun. Obviously, you haven’t been flying recently (Thanks COVID), but when the time is right again…

Colombia in 2018.

Brazil in early 2020.

Those were great trips, weren’t they? Here’s to many more!

7. “Sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe shit.” — Gennaro Ivan Gattuso

Source

Top comment: “Life explained in 4 seconds.”

I love the internet.

8. Creation is the antidote to boredom (mindless consumption).

If I scroll too much on Instagram, binge-watch too many 10 min+ videos (for the algorithm) on YouTube, or blitz another mini docu-series on Netflix…I’ll get bored.

Boredom happens when I’m constantly in the state of consumption. When I’m fed entertainment.

After a while, it’s boring. Life goes out of balance.

The cure is to make something.

Write. Dance. Create a podcast. Make a video.

Do something creative, anything creative.

It’ll make you curious again, and curiosity is the true boredom-killer (it’s also the ultimate fear-killer). When you’re in a state of curiosity, life becomes an endless ocean of treasure.

9. Nobody cares about you. You’re free!

Everybody’s too busy thinking about themselves. You think you’re the main character of your story because you’ve only lived YOUR life. You’re in your head 24/7.

Everybody thinks they’re the protagonist of their own life.

So just do the thing you’re scared of. Don’t worry about what others will think — because they’re probably not thinking about you, anyway.

Congratulations, you’re free.

10. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

Life is easy, people make it complicated.

Occam’s razor. Time is the one resource you can never get back.

Save time. Keep life simple.

11. Stop eating so much that you explode!

I know you love eating. That’s fine. Food is awesome

But you know that feeling you have when you eat too much and you want to roll into bed? When you’ve got a tummy-ache and you spend the rest of the day doing your best Snorlax impression?

Source

Stop that. You’re hurting yourself.

The food won’t run away. Eat till you’re not hungry, and take a break. Drink some water — maybe you’re actually thirsty, anyway. Maybe you’re just bored.

Whatever it is, I know you’re fed up with the repeating cycle of eating too much and promising yourself never to eat like that again only to do the same thing next Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year/ Lunar New Year/ Birthday…

I hope I won’t have to remind you this next year.

12. Learn your sister’s “filter” technique.

You’re a sensitive soul. Cool.

Why do you believe the best in others, but only see the worst in yourself?

Whenever someone compliments you, you think they’re just being nice. You forget about the compliment in five minutes. But when someone says a negative thing about you, you reflect upon it all day, all week, all month.

Why do you let any random person ruin your day with their thoughtless, perhaps unfounded criticism?

Why do you feel the need to be liked by everyone?

Newsflash. You can’t please everybody. Don’t bother.

Your sister has a great “filter” technique. She first filters the person offering the criticism or comment (good or bad). If it’s someone she admires, she’ll consider it. If it’s a random person on the internet or some random person on the street…

Who cares!?

13. Believe in your vision when nobody else can a la Ira Glass.

Source

If not you, then who?

14. Ego is the enemy. (Ryan Holiday)

You are your greatest enemy. Don’t sabotage yourself.

Remember that everybody is fighting a struggle you know nothing about. You are not better than anybody; you are no worse than anybody.

Others are the “other” for you, but you are also the “other” for them.

Try your best to love others and be compassionate. Sympathize with others. If they’re angry people, they’re the ones who are caught up in that anger and have to live with that feeling every day. It’s no fun for them either.

This doesn’t mean roll over, it just means to check yourself. You are not morally superior to anyone. We’re all just humans, trying to figure life out.

The moment you’re caught up in your ego, your downfall is right around the corner.

15. Helping others is the best way to help yourself.

Haven’t you noticed that every time you help somebody, you feel a little better about yourself?

Because when you help others, you subconsciously show yourself that you have enough. You are capable. You have something to offer. You are needed. You are valuable.

It’s why you’re a teacher. Every time you teach someone, you’re given the opportunity to learn how to teach. There’s no better way to align yourself with your purpose than to help somebody else.

16. Combine theory with practice.

I know you love reading. Reading is wonderful. Readers are leaders.

But don’t bury yourself in the books to hide from reality. Don’t read as a form of procrastination. Don’t read because you’re afraid.

Apply what you learn. You’ve got all these ideas — use them!

You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

17. Anxiety is excitement by another name.

Remember how you felt every time you sang on stage? That sudden need to pee. The same feeling you get before teaching a class. The same feeling you get when you’re about to travel.

Anxiety, nervousness, butterflies…

It’s just excitement by another name.

So name it — excitement. You’re excited. You think you’re anxious, but you’re excited.

You’re ready. When you want to pee, that’s go-time.

18. Walking is good.

I remember reading in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work that lots of famous people walked a lot.

I tried walking more. Feels good. I’m aiming at 10,000 steps per day.

Great time to think. Great time to find peace. Great time to listen to music or language learning podcasts.

Good fun all around. And your body feels stronger afterwards, too!

Walk more.

19. Sleep more.

I’ve always sucked at sleeping. I stay up late like an idiot. Why? Maybe I think it’s cool. Maybe I just hate sleeping. Not sure.

Sleep more. It’s good for you. Can’t you feel the difference when you wake up with a headache versus that clarity after a good night’s sleep?

If you can’t sleep, then cut back on caffeine. Exercise more. Eat healthy. Have more mindful, technology-less habits.

Look, all the top athletes sleep insane amounts. That’s their superpower.

Make it yours.

20. Health is wealth.

JJ, one day you’re going to die.

In the meantime, try your best to stay healthy. It’ll make life a lot more fun.

You can’t buy back your health.

21. Savour the little things.

Slow down.

Sip your drinks, stop inhaling everything.

Put away the phone. Watch the sunset. Stop thinking of being somewhere else.

Be here now.

22. Actions and emotions are cyclical.

You used to believe that when you felt ready, you’d do the thing.

Now you know that sometimes, you feel ready after you do the thing.

So when you want to get the thing done, just start, and you’ll feel it later.

Or when you want to get the thing done, feel it, and you’ll do it later.

Both styles work. Just remember that sometimes, you get energy and “motivation” after you act. After you put in the work.

“ Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

— Stephen King

23. Habits. Habits. Habits.

Habits are the superpower for a life well-lived. They’re your cheat code.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

Archilochus

Choose your habits wisely. There is no such thing as good habits or bad habits. Only habits. Which life do you want? Build your habits to suit that life.

Envision the person you want to be. Take away the “results”. Think about what that person is doing day in, day out.

Do that.

24. Buy the teapot.

Stop running away from money. Money is a part of life. It’s not good or evil, it’s just money.

You have the power to re-write your own stories that you tell yourself.

Money is just a vote for the future you want. So spend it on what you like. You’ll spend some wisely, you’ll spend some stupidly. But don’t waste your life being worried about spending or not spending — then you’ll be taking money to heart.

No. Money stays in the hand, not in the heart.

So buy that teapot. Make some great tea. Serve it to others.

Drink it yourself.

Enjoy.

25. Talk it out.

I know you’ve bottled everything up as a defence mechanism.

You’ll erupt. That’s happened already, hasn’t it?

Talk it out. Release the pressure. The people who are meant to be in your life can handle your truth. Be honest and upfront, but don’t be mean.

If you have to have a difficult conversation, err on the side of kindness.

But be real.

Say it, even if it’s not easy to say.

Tomorrow will be better.

26. If you fall off the train, don’t jump off the cliff.

Sometimes you get in a good little routine and then shit happens.

Maybe you’ve been working out, sleeping well, eating well. Suddenly you’re injured. Oops. I guess it’s time to feel sorry for yourself.

No!

You missed a self-imposed commitment. You said you’d write more. Podcast more. Teach more. Dance more. Oops. I guess it’s time to give up completely.

No!

If you fall off the train, dust yourself off, and try again tomorrow. Don’t harm yourself further. Don’t shoot the second arrow.

Who cares? (Lesson #9)

27. Helsinki Bus Theory — Stay on the bus!

Life hasn’t turned out as you’ve hoped. Some of it has been better. Some of it has been worse.

Great stuff. Keep trying your best to live the best that you can.

Stay on the bus.

You can’t see the outcome now. What you’re doing looks normal, stupid, and just like everybody else. You’re lost, they’re lost, we’re all lost.

Stay on the bus.

It might be obvious to you, but maybe it’ll be amazing to others. Maybe not now, maybe one day. Maybe never. (If so, who cares? Isn’t that just your ego talking?) Anyway, keep going. Keep working. You’re not alone.

Have a lovely year, I’ll see you in about 365 days.

Stay on the bus.

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JJ Wong

Written by

JJ Wong

English teacher, language lover, and dancer. I write about learning languages, dance, and personal growth. http://jjwong.net I IG: thejjwong

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

JJ Wong

Written by

JJ Wong

English teacher, language lover, and dancer. I write about learning languages, dance, and personal growth. http://jjwong.net I IG: thejjwong

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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